"So tell me about Natasha. You said she was found scrounging around the showgrounds?"
"Yes that is correct. She is sixteen years old, and she left North Oak three months ago. That's all she has willingly told us. We haven't learnt her surname yet and I don't think we will unless she tells us."
"She's a very pretty girl and I think she has been through a lot. She needs a stable home and my husband and I are able to give her that."
"You have a three year old girl is that correct?"
"Yes Abbey, she's about to turn four."
"Will you be able to provide for Natasha as if she were your own daughter, as well as looking after Abbey?"
"Of course. I work as a pre-school teacher so the hours are appropriate and my husband is the store manager of IGA. We are financially stable to care for Natasha and I know she would be a great big sister to Abbey."
"Natasha needs a stable family environment. Why do you think you are the perfect candidate to care for Natasha?"
"Well my husband and I have been married for seven years. Since Abbey came along we've been really family orientated and we make sure to spend a large amount of time together. I think with Natasha as a part of our family, it would bring us even closer together."
"Well Jane I think that sums up my questions. You will know within a week if your application has been successful. We have your financial statements and references from friends and family, so all that is left now is the decision of the agency.
"As a final note I must warn you about this girl. We get a lot of cases here where children come from troublesome families, so they don't really know any other way of life. Just keep that in mind."
Seven years ago my life changed for the better. I was found homeless in the streets of Silver Waters after abandoning my family and adopted into a loving foster family who believed in me and loved me for who I was. I was taught right and wrong, after I stole a pair of shoes from the local store and reminded I didn't have to be that person and live that way anymore. I was given love from an adorable baby sister, and parents who were there every step of the way, showering me with pride and trust.
When I turned eighteen I got a job as a personal assistant to Walker's Law Firm, after completing my Higher School Certificate with flying colours. I was a changed person. No longer was I the daughter of Patrick and Melissa Hargrave. But despite how much I tried, my heart was constantly aching from lost love.
So here I was, seven years later standing on the front porch of my parents' home, the home which was my childhood. It hadn't changed one bit; the sweet smell of the lavender bush that kissed the path that led to the front veranda; the desert red brick that made up the exterior of the house; deep green climbing vines that crawled their way up the trunk of the pine tree; the feel of the soft, yellow-brown dirt beneath my feet aligning the path. None of it had changed in the many years since I last stepped foot in this home and left my life behind, to turn it all around.
I slowly made my way to the front door, noticing the peeling white paint flaking off the solid timber door. The familiarity of this place, yet the foreboding foreign feeling and voice in my head telling me to leave because I don't belong here, had me trembling as I raised my clenched fists. With the final ounce of my courage, and determination, I let out a shaky breath and rapped hard on the wooden door.
Seconds turned into minutes, and it felt like an eternity pressing down on me before the door opened. The sound of my gasp left my lungs before I could stop it, and I stopped and stared into familiar eyes of my twin James. His shiny russet hair, so identical to mine, danced across his eyes, as his face froze in shock mirroring my own. His eyes, those soft hazel eyes, now hardened and dark after the years of torment, were full of hatred. His hatred. The hatred that was only growing with my apparent presence.
"What are you doing here?" James asked, anger in his voice.
"What am I doing here? What are you doing here, where are mum and dad?" I replied shakily.
"Don't act like you care Natasha, what are you doing here?" he repeated. I could hear the snarl in his voice, see the despair in those dark eyes, and feels his anger. An anger that radiated like a dying sun.
"I do care. I need you to believe that I do care. We are twins. I know you, and I know that you need to hear what I have to say." I don't want to sound like I am pleading, but I am barely convincing myself.
"Cut the bullshit Natasha. You don't care. You left seven years ago, SEVEN years! You didn't care then. Now you have come back and you STILL don't care."
"Let me explain. I-
"NO, YOU DON'T DESERVE TO SPEAK! WHAT WE WENT THROUGH BACK THEN, AS TWINS, AND YOU STILL LEFT! YOU LEFT ME! HERE, WITH DAD, HAYLEY AND GREG! MUM WAS GONE! I SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RELY ON YOU. RELY ON MY OWN TWIN! YOU LEFT!"
He hid his face, taking an opportunity to calm himself, as if stopping before going too far.
"You don't care, and you don't matter anymore." He whispered softly. How could a single sentence spoken so quietly, have an impact as if a freight train plummeted into my soul. His face dark, hidden from me by his ever fading flat cap, but I could still make out a lone tear, barely rolling down his face as he shook from the emotional overload.
"James, p-p-please…" I trembled.
He stiffened, and his broken emotional interior hardened again. "What do you want?"
"James, what's going on? Who's at the door?" a new, deep sounding voice asked, walking toward him.
Coming into view was none other than Ethan Matthers, the boy who had haunted my dreams since I left all those years ago. Since the age of twelve the three of us, Ethan, James and I, were inseparable. At school Ethan made us forget. That was the sole reason I fell in love with him. He made me feel like I was special, that I was worth more than the lifestyle my family was setting up for my future.
He stood next to my brother like a soldier, ready to fight for him. Flexing his taut, tanned biceps, he folded his arms. The arms I have dreamt myself in for every night, for seven years.
"Ethan," I whispered, my voice cracking.
"Who the hell are you? What do you want?" He spat.
"Ethan this is my dear sister Natasha," James seethed with sarcastic venom.
A range of emotions crossed his face, but the one that was the clearest was hurt. I sucked in a breath as his painful soul stabbed me, piercing my heart and level a hole which flowed with emotion. All too soon a mask came up and he glared at me. That mask was like a bulletproof vest, protecting his heart, allowing him to survive. It hurt seeing him look at me with such malicious intent. His pain, anger, hurt and frustration all oozed from not only heart, but his soul, and it coated me like a wave of guilt. I tried to speak but no words escaped. My throat was being constricted from the inside, like a vice tightening with every emotional heartbeat. His voice was firm as he spoke emotionless and cold.
"Get out! You don't deserve to be here. You don't deserve to see us. But most importantly you don't deserve to be back in our lives," Ethan spat, anger and hate lining his voice.
Tears filled my eyes as I turned on my heel and ran, ran as fast as I could. My mind was swirling with thoughts of "what if" and "what is going to happen now." I didn't belong to my family as a child, and I still don't belong to them now, even my own twin. Ethan was the saviour in my life; he made me feel special, important and loved. Now all of that was out the window. I was stupid to think I would suddenly be welcome back into their family as if nothing happened; stupid to think Ethan would love me; and stupid to think I would finally be home. As I was running up the garden path, passed the lavender bush, there was only one thought that I could hear. They would never forgive me for this.